Estate Find: 1985 Subaru GL Turbo 4×4 Wagon

This 1985 Subaru GL Turbo 4×4 wagon was a one-owner car since it was sold new in California 35 years ago. The owner, who was 92 years old, recently passed away and the seller got it from the estate. It can be found listed here on Barn Finds Classifieds, or here on eBay. It’s located in Monterey, California and there is a $6,999 buy-it-now price listed.

The seller has done an amazing job of photographing this car, which makes me think that we need a Barn Finds annual award for best photos. Who’s with me?! Come on. Ok, well I like to have great photos of online vehicle listings even if nobody else cares about it. (let us know in the comments section) You can possibly tell that this Subaru isn’t 100% rust-free, at least as far as surface rust goes.

This is an amazing looking car from ten feet away, but it was near the ocean and it has suffered from an underlying rash of surface rust almost everywhere which is unfortunate. I get the shivers thinking about this thin sheet metal having been so close to salt air, just knowing how quickly they rusted to death when they were driven on salty winter roads. The seller is showing it all so they’re not hiding that fact – kudos for them for being honest in that way. It is a great looking car overall, though. This is a third-generation Subaru Leone but cars here in the US were named DL, GL, and this is a GL Turbo which is the one that you want.

Gaaaa! Ok, this one has an automatic transmission and most of us were hoping to see a 5-speed manual when we got to the interior photos. The woman who bought it new would have been around 57 years old when she bought this car and that may have been a factor in it having an automatic. Or, maybe it was just easier to commute with, who knows. You can see the spaceship-like digital dash which is super cool and 1980s video-game’y. It appears that everything works, according to the seller’s great video shown here on YouTube. You can see many of the details on the video, such as the button on the shifter to activate the 4WD system.

Some of you may remember that I recently had a 1988 Subaru RX Turbo 5-speed sedan, a unicorn even rarer than an actual unicorn. It was a great car but it had a lot of painted-over rust and that was so disappointing since I’m a detail person when it comes to my vehicles. I would have to disassemble this entire car, treat the rust, and put it back together again… The interior does look good, though.

This engine is Subaru’s EA-82T, a 1.8L boxer-four which with the added turbo pumped out 110 horsepower or so, give or take. It was about a 15% bump in horsepower over the non-turbo so there’s that. As a reference, here’s what my RX Turbo engine looked like. The seller says that it runs good and it has had some recent maintenance but has been sitting for a while so it may need to be checked out before taking it on a long drive. Have any of you owned a Subaru of this era with a turbo?

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  1. Joshua Mortensen Staff

    This one is really tempting. If only it had a manual transmission so that you can take full advantage of the turbo! I’m sure the automatic is good, but this thing would one fun winter machine with a 5-speed.

    Like 5
    • That AMC guy

      Unfortunately it wouldn’t last long if driven on salted winter roads, especially since the ocean air has already given the tinworm a beachhead.

      Like 10
      • Steve R

        The undercarriage is likely rust free. Cars on the coast rust from the top down, anywhere that salty condensation will collect. There are no salted roads that cause rot on the lower portion of the car. This car will provide years of service.

        Steve R

        Like 1
  2. Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

    An annual BF photo shoot contest would be a GREAT idea, Scotty. Maybe some members would show off their rebuilds that way! It’d be interesting at the least to peel back another layer of who we are..
    I’m with you, Joshua-a Turbo manual “Subie” in the snow would be a hoot. My daughter loves her 5spd Outback for just that reason, commuting over Donner Pass as she does.

    Like 7
  3. mark r westphal

    Put it back in the barn

  4. Car Nut Tacoma

    Sweet looking car. Although I was too young to drive, I remember when Subaru cars looked like this. Given its condition, I’d be willing to pay close to the $7,000 asking price. I’d still have enough money to have an inspection done on the car, make sure everything works how they should.

    Like 1
  5. Tim S.

    I did have this car with the 5-speed. The 4WD drive button was on the end of the stick, like 007’s seat ejector. LOVED that little car. For such a lightweight vehicle, it was surprisingly capable in New England winters.

    Like 1
  6. Caozman

    I gotta tell you, I owned an ’88 GL Turbo wagon back in the day with the to auto and it was a hoot to drive in the snow. Stomp on the gas and wait for the viscous coupling to lock. It was like a slingshot. The absolute most fun snow car I ever owned. The bonus was hitting the dash button that raised the entire car. Damn thing would go through any amount of snow.

    Like 4
  7. healeydays

    It’s just a used Subaru wagon with over 100,000 miles. I had an 85 GL sedan and yup, back then they were a good car, but nothing special especially with an auto trans.

    Like 3
  8. Bernie

    Having a photo contest is a great idea! It would be fun to look back at all those interesting cars with their differing degrees of decay. It might encourage better listing photos too. There could be several categories in addition to best photo, like: most ambitious restoration, best patina, best barn, best story, best condition of car, etc.

    Like 4
  9. Phil G

    Had an 87 GL turbo wagon, 5 spd. Was a neat little car, nice handling, did well in Vermont snowy winters, would really go when the turbo kicked in!
    But life in northern New England did it in. Support member over the rear axle rotted away.
    I still remember my mechanic’s remark when we brought it to him to see if it was worth buying- Looking under the hood Leo said:
    “Whatcha got here is ten pounds of s**t in a five pound bag!”

    Like 2
  10. 433jeff

    The turbo 5 speed push button 4 wd is an awesome lightweight vehicle, only made better by the dual range tranny, with the dual range you can use all gears to 30 35 mph and the snow becomes a non issue. Until you have so much snow that your sitting on top with tires spinning. The turbo needs head gaskets at 90 k and the 4 speed auto seems to keel over at 90 k. Being that the tin worm has started its march , no Subaru turbo( ea82t) is worth 7k. You can find them cheap , needing head gaskets, the gl10 has the dig dash sunroof. Would love to find the non rotted blue 83-84 Subaru turbo wagon, no rust I saw one for 7500 and it was perfect.

    Like 2
  11. Joe

    Similar car with 20k more miles, hardly any records, and no surface rust
    went for 12,755 so I think its fairly priced.

    Like 3
    • chrlsful

      – 1 car does not a market make.
      – auctions R not the best way to price a vehicle as they go to the
      highest bidder.

  12. bhowe Member

    Absolutely love the uniqueness of these cars and little things the ability to raise the suspension, video game instruments, etc. As I’ve said over and over, ten times as many features as any new car made now, and way more interesting. I usually don’t make the following comment on here, but I honestly think with the level of rust showing the price is a bit steep.

    • Robert Eddins

      I agreed that much surface rust has to be treated, plus it ruined the looks of the car.

  13. 8banger Member

    Never had an older one – sort of, but one of my main whips is a ‘99 Legacy wagon with the bulletproof 2.2L. This thing will take all Colorado has to offer and then some.

  14. Steve Clinton

    It appears the rust is expanding from the inside out.

    Like 1
  15. Kenn

    Best patina? O.K. if documented as original.

  16. Jalopy

    Does Rustoleum make a clear cote? I had the 2 wheel drive version, sister in law gave it to me in Texas, drove it back to Florida. You couldn’t kill that wagon. Sold it to a nurse where my son worked, she beat the %$# out of it with non maintenance, still wouldn’t die. It had the 5 speed. I shoulda kept it. My son is on his 3rd outback, he trades every couple years just because he can, Just wanted all the electronic safety gizmos this time. Grandson has the STI.

    Like 1
  17. chrlsful

    had this one’s grnd father (remember when they were all beige & way more ’round’?). All pretty durable (I think mine was steel sleeved inda alu block?) a few gen’s after the mini (360).
    “…want…5 speed…this woman 57 y/o when buying it…”
    more women own/drive stick than men in usa. I’ll go auto, I luv this type vehicle as DD (well a lill bigger @ 240/850 wagon, fox wagon, dart wagon).
    I remember when subie was ‘the AWD/4WD’ co, saab the turbo. Y this has one I really don’t know (sm increase, more complicated/maintain/cost) the Pacific C. hwy is not the rocky mnts…
    And for the pic award? how bout “Best Pic for Sales” category or ‘shows/reveals vehicle in a manner which potential buyers can get an honest impression of it’ (esp for some of the more exotic, the more pricy, those w/unusual lines or ‘rough’ spots (rust, torn interior), the rarer car. The close ups (not too many fish eye lens used here, horrible on the ‘other channel’), no full flat frnt, back & both sides, or a decent one of any of the four 3/4 views, boxes left in so as to not see the interior, heavy dirt or opposite still wet from a spray, shot from shoe lace level. I guess there’s a million ways to do it poorly – only 1 to do it well.

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